JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. -- A young Johnson County man says his dog is more than just a pet, it helps him fight depression. Therefore, federal law helps protect their companionship. But that didn't stop Tyler Washington’s landlord from trying to evict him and accusing him of sneaking his pet onto the property.
Animals that help you battle depression or anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder are called 'Emotional Support Animals.’ Landlords have to let you keep them, something Washington knew, but he still needed FOX 4 Problem Solvers help hanging on to his dog.
“She helps my anxiety go away a lot faster than a pill would,” Washington said.
Washington is only 21 but takes a series of medications to deal with depression and other forms of mental illness. It was his Johnson County therapist who encouraged him to get a dog.
“I laugh now. I smile, something I didn't do much before,” Washington said.
But Washington's landlord, who owns the Johnson County apartment complex which doesn't allow pets, isn’t smiling.
“He served me with an eviction notice. It's either you or your dog,” Washington said.
That's why he contacted Problem Solvers. He knows that legally he should be able to keep Princess, because she isn't just a pet, she's a service dog. Plus, Washington has a letter from his therapist saying he needs Princess for emotional support.
Under the Federal Fair Housing Act that's all Washington needs to hang on to the pet he says is a medical necessity. But that didn't sway his landlord. In fact, the day we visited Tyler, he was moving out of his apartment, knowing his last day was just days away.
But landlord/tenant attorney Bob Wiseman said it’s a court battle he stood to win. Wiseman acknowledged there is frustration among landlords as service animals become more and more common.
“It would be silly to ask why does a blind person need a guide dog. We all know that. But why does a person with no apparent disability need the cat with them? That's a little harder to figure out,” Wise said.
But Wise also said the law is clearly on the side of the pet owner.
“You have the right to request verification and once you get that verification, it's done,” Wise said.
That's something Washington's landlord must have figured out because by the time this case was filed with the courts, the landlord was no longer claiming Washington had an illegal pet. Instead the landlord argued that he hadn't paid his rent on time.
That’s something Washington denied. His attorney Michelle Burns told the judge that the only reason his rent was late was because the landlord stopped answering the door every time he tried to pay it. The judge ruled in favor of Tyler Washington, who now no longer has to worry that he and Princess will be evicted from their home.